PM sends resident ID card scheme to GoM

The ambitious Rs 5,500 crore proposal to issue resident identity cards to the entire population above 18 years of age under the National Population Register which in the past had clashed with the Aadhaar scheme under UIDAI on ground that they had similar objectives on Thursday failed to find Cabinet approval following which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred it to a Group of Ministers (GoM).

Cabinet ministers displayed their lack of knowledge on the subject when during the discussions, many members said they thought that Aadhaar was merely a number given to an individual and not an actual card. Other members like Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel, Railway Minister Pawan Bansal and Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Kumari Selja intervened to say that they had been handed Aadhaar cards after their fingerprints and iris scans were taken. These ministers, however, confessed they were not aware if the card issued to them had a microchip carrying information about their personal details.

The discussion then shifted to whether the duplicity of having an Aadhaar number as well as a resident identity card in the form of a smart card carrying personal information was really necessary and if it meant unnecessary burden on government exchequer to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore as an initial investment. Some members pointed out that both resident ID card as well as Aadhaar had similar objectives and it was only logical if the two initiatives were merged.

In between, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh contended that even smart cards would be outdated soon and the mobile phone would become the information carrying interface relating to identity of an individual. Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily, however, differed with him strongly telling Cabinet members that it would be too tall a task to expect a person from rural background to be familiar with mobile phone operations as an information interface. He cited his own example saying that his knowledge about operating his handphone was limited.

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